Meetings – blah blah or brilliant

What is the most pointless waste of time in your business? Could it be the externally imposed red tape which requires countless hours of information gathering and form filling? Well it could be, although it has to be said that some red tape does at least force us to think about areas such as health and safety; whilst well designed computer tracking systems can semi-automate returns in other areas.

Or perhaps it is the email overload whose origin lies in some misguided attempt to keep everyone informed. Here again it could be, although good time management practices encourage individuals to pursue email handling techniques including deferring reading multi-recipient emails until they have a quiet moment, or even ignoring communications which are not directly addressed to them.

Whilst differing businesses may well have their own contender for the time wasting trophy, one prime candidate would appear to be the business meeting, particularly internal meetings. Sadly, when it comes to internal meetings you can’t automate your attendance, nor can you choose to turn up when it suits you; meaning that this is one interruption to the daily flow which can’t be avoided. Even worse, that same ideology which attempts to keep everyone informed can result in people being invited to meetings on subjects which will have little or no impact on their daily duties.

Add in other factors such as an overlong agenda (or no agenda at all), poor meeting control skills and individuals who see every meeting as a chance to further their own agenda and the result could well be that your meetings are in effect a drain on business resources. So much so that a review of a variety of reports into the dynamics of meetings reveals that around 50% of meeting time is wasted time.

Little wonder then that some businesses are taking steps to actively improve the meeting experience. Few go as far as Yahoo’s ten minute meeting rule but it is certainly true that imposing a time limit helps to focus the mind. And when it comes to effective meetings, it has to be said that preparation and good leadership are key to success.

In fact, the preparation starts with questioning whether meeting needs to be held at all and then considering the optimum format for the meeting. Should it be formal or informal; on-site or off-site; and does it really need to be face-to-face? Sometimes telephone conferences can be every bit as effective as round the table meetings, with the added bonus that taping the teleconference enables it to be played back at a later stage. This means that all those individuals who would otherwise be attending on an ‘information only’ basis could simply listen back to the recording at a time to suit them.

Conference calls also have other advantages over regular meetings. They are extremely quick to organise and manage, considerably speeding up the fact-finding and decision-making process. They can draw together individuals who work in different offices or who may be travelling at the time without incurring unnecessary travel cost/time expenses. And with a web based telephone conference management system to hand, a private conference call can accommodate up to 500 participants, more than enough to debate and decide without requiring individuals to leave their desks and interrupt their day.

Do meetings represent the most pointless waste of time in your business? If they do then perhaps it’s time you revisited your meeting techniques; turning time wasting into effective time management and blah blah into brilliant solutions.

Written by Alison